From The Straits Times    |

The festive feasting is almost over, and come January, we bet you’ll be looking for ways to lose the weight you put on. Most diets are faddish and don’t promise healthy, lasting results. A juice “cleanse”, on the other hand, is generally healthy and can help jumpstart more wholesome eating habits. Plus, it’s a great way to reduce bloat, shift those extra kilos, reduce cravings, and give your digestive system a break from rich, heavy, and highly processed foods.

Technically, there is no real need to “cleanse” your system because the human body is naturally designed to rid itself of toxins. But sometimes, just going one to three days without solid food can make you feel “cleaner” and “fresher” on the inside, and leave you a couple of kilograms lighter. On a short juice “cleanse”, as these mini diets are typically called, you can indulge in all your favourite fruit and vegetable juices while nourishing your body and keeping hunger pangs at bay.

But juice cleanses can be dangerous if done incorrectly. For instance, if you drink too much of the wrong kind of juice it can have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve, and if you don’t drink enough, you may end up feeling light-headed, weak and hungry. So before you begin a juice cleanse, you should find out how to go about one in order to reap its benefits. These eight tips will help get you on the right track.

1. Begin your cleanse when you have some downtime. You won’t exactly be lethargic during a juice cleanse, but you probably will not have the same kind of energy as if you were eating normally, which is why it’s important not to schedule your cleanse when you have a lot of social events planned, or when you’re going through a stressful period at work, for example. Instead, opt to do it over a long weekend – you can spend this time resting and doing relaxing activities that will allow you to complete your juice cleanse with ease.

2. Drink only 100 per cent juice. Ready-made juices are convenient, but most of them contain sugar, preservatives, and/or artificial flavours and colours, which defeats the purpose of doing a juice cleanse in the first place. You’re better off making your own juice at home – all you need is a reliable juicer. Don’t add sugar, honey or milk to your homemade concoctions, although if you find the taste of the juice too overpowering you can dilute it with water.

The fresher the juice the better – if you make a big batch and drink it over the course of the day the juice may lose its flavour and nutrients or change colour due to oxidisation. You may not always be able to make your juice right when you need it, so the next best thing would be to fill and chill individual bottles, so you can just grab-and-go.

3. The type of fruit and veg you juice is important. Variety is key to pulling off a successful juice cleanse. If you stick to only one kind of fruit or vegetable you may get bored and end up going off your cleanse. So, feel free to mix up your produce for a delicious juice blend. The best ones for juicing include kale, pineapple, watermelon, celery, carrot, apple, cabbage and cucumber. You may want to read up on the nutritional benefits of each fruit and veggie and experiment with different combinations before deciding on the most healthful one.

As most fruit juices contain a lot of sugar, avoid drinking too much of them. At the same time, some fruit and vegetable juices can have unpleasant or risky side effects if drunk in excess – oranges, for example, can cause diarrhoea, while beets can cause gout and contribute to kidney stones.   

4. Use organic produce as much as possible. Some fruits and vegetables are heavily sprayed with pesticides; these chemicals leave behind residues that are difficult to remove. To minimise the ingestion of toxins, it’s best to buy organic produce. Apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, pears, spinach and lettuce are among the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. So if you want to juice these, be sure to buy organic, but, if you really can’t afford it, remember to scrub and rinse the produce thoroughly and remove their skins or peel before juicing them.

5. Chew your juice. Yes, you read that right. Don’t just gulp it down. Swirling it around in your mouth helps it mix with your saliva, which contains enzymes to help kick off the digestion process. Chewing also allows you to savour your juice for longer and appreciate its flavour.

6. Hungry? Munch on raw fruit or veggies. Dietary fibre helps keep you full. If all you’re consuming for a few days is juice, then that means you’re not taking in any fibre and as a result, you may feel hungry from time to time. If you can’t bear the hunger, it’s fine to munch on a piece of fruit or a raw carrot. This puts a small amount fibre into your system, which will help quell those hunger pangs and make you feel full but not stuffed or bloated. When you resume regular eating after the juice cleanse, just remember to consume plenty of fibre-rich foods. If you’d prefer not to eat any solid foods at all, coconut water can help with hunger pangs and sweet cravings; and celery or cucumber juice is perfect for satisfying your craving for savoury foods.

7. Don’t skimp on water. Just because you’re sipping on juice throughout the day, it doesn’t mean that you should cut back on the H2O. Water is still important, so make it a point to consume between six and eight glasses a day, on top of your juice. This will help keep your digestive system running smoothly and prevent dehydration. While you’re on a juice cleanse, you’re also advised to avoid coffee, tea, diet soft drinks and alcohol (which are all dehydrating).

8. Get your doctor’s clearance. A short-term juice cleanse is not generally harmful. Still, before embarking on one, it’s wise to get clearance from your doctor – this is especially important if you are sick, have a medical condition like diabetes, are on medication (because some drugs may cause a reaction when taken with certain juices), or are recovering from an illness (because you may need other nutrients not found in juice, like protein and fat). If you are pregnant, you should not be attempting a juice cleanse at all. If you’re not sure whether a juice cleanse is right for you, your doctor will be able to give you the right advice.  

Want some more advice on how to recover from the festive season? Read our stories 6 mood-boosting foods to get you over the post-holiday slump and The best comfort food for your post-holiday feelings and wallet

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